The tables have turned since last October, when MPs and staffers talked Mr. Dion out of his desire to bring down Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government; this time, it was the party leader who rejected the idea.
With the scandal over former foreign affairs minister Maxime Bernier setting the Conservatives on the defensive and concerns about an economic downturn, a heavyweight group of the party's most influential MPs argued in internal meetings this week that the Liberals have a window of opportunity for an election.
They included foreign affairs critic Bob Rae, Deputy Leader Michael Ignatieff, House Leader Ralph Goodale, Whip Karen Redman, finance critic John McCallum, and justice critic Dominic LeBlanc, according to multiple Liberal sources.
MPs and advisers close to Mr. Dion, Mr. Ignatieff, Mr. Rae and others not aligned with former leadership contenders told The Globe and Mail that despite several entreaties – and perhaps more to come – the Liberal Leader has been adamant. “It's dead, dead, dead,” said one.
There were rumours that ranking MPs were trying to organize a meeting with Mr. Dion Sunday night to press for a snap election, but well-placed sources said Mr. Dion will be at his cottage for the weekend and has no plans to take part in a meeting.
But Mr. Dion is running against the views of most of his caucus leadership.
Mr. McCallum made a strenuous appeal for a quick election in a face-to-face meeting on Thursday, despite earlier rebuffs, sources said.
On Monday, Mr. Rae and Mr. Goodale pleaded the case at a meeting of the party's priorities and planning committee, they said.
Mr. Dion explained that he wanted to spend the summer selling the Liberals green-tax plan, which includes tax levies on carbon fuels designed to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. “Stéphane dismissed it immediately,” a source said.
Two days later, at the party's weekly caucus meeting, outgoing MP John Godfrey also recommended bringing the government down.
The plan would have seen the Liberals defeat the government early next week, in time for a mid-July election date. Tory officials said Friday that the Commons will vote Monday on Bill C-50, the Budget Implementation Act, which is a confidence matter.
Those agitating for an early vote argued that more time will give Mr. Harper an opportunity to regain political momentum by shuffling his cabinet, announcing new policies, attacking the Liberals with advertising – and possibly proroguing Parliament to delay the fall Commons session and limit the opportunities for triggering a pre-Christmas election.
Although some MPs who back an early election insist they accept the leader's right to decide, others in the party argued that Mr. Dion is isolated and expressed frustration at again passing on an election campaign out of fear they are not ready.
Mr. Dion's campaign co-chair Mark Marissen and campaign director Gordon Ashworth were also against forcing a snap election, sources said.
Although some close to Mr. Dion said that suddenly changing tacks to launch an election campaign within a few days would create problems for organizing a campaign tour, they insisted those concerns were secondary to broader strategic ones.
For one thing, there is little sense that the public is clamouring for a summer election, and the party would have to offer a reason. And they acknowledge the party needs a better plan to boost low support in Quebec.
More broadly, one adviser said, Mr. Dion must use the summer not only to sell his green plan, but to hone his skills at communicating it so he can use it to counter Tory attacks that he is a weak leader.
Defending the controversial plan could raise respect for Mr. Dion's mettle, if he is seen fighting for a bold policy idea despite the political risks, they said.